Maybe this is just a bout of homesickness or maybe its an attempt at some sort of balance, an inner compass working to keep my life fresh and lively but grounded, too. Whatever it is, the most important thing is to know when to say 'enough!' and head back home where I can pull out my old mixing bowl and whip up a simple plum cake, just because I know the recipe by heart and that it bakes best in that pan I got at the Salvation Army and that it's a favorite treat of an old friend who can hop on her bike and be over in 10 minutes, just as the cake is pulled from the oven and the tea kettle has reached a boil.
This cake is based on the famous NYT Plum Torte. I use one less egg than the NYT and am not fussy about the kind of plums used as long as they're fairly ripe. I've even used fresh pitted cherries and fresh blueberries, both of which were delicious. The size of the pan is also flexible -- I've had excellent results with a small rectangular gratin pan, a 9" round pan and an 8" square pan.
The other great thing about this cake is that it can be whipped up using a bowl with a wooden spoon in about 3 minutes, provided that your butter is at room temperature.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
6 - 8 plums, halved and pitted
1 tablespoon sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter and flour a 8" round cake pan. Cream sugar and butter in a bowl. Add eggs and beat well. Add flour, baking powder, and beat well.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter, being sure to crowd the pan. You may have to use an extra plum or two, depending on how big your plums are. Sprinkle lightly with the cinnamon and sugar.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and the middle is set. Cool on a rack. Best eaten with a good friend and a cup of hot strong tea served in a favorite mug.
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(Image: Dana Velden)